“Do not dismiss your pain or malaise. Find the expert doctors.” Those were the words Dr. Nadia Chaudhri emphasized in a Twitter thread three weeks before she passed away of ovarian cancer at the age of 43. She shared her story, and how her symptoms were misdiagnosed by her doctors, hoping to raise awareness so others will not experience the same fate.
Chaudhri, a neuroscientist living in Canada with her husband and young son, wanted to make sure women don’t delay visits to their doctors when experiencing symptoms.
Her first ovarian cancer symptoms.
In the thread, the doctor goes through how she first started feeling “unwell” shortly before the pandemic began. Her symptoms — including fatigue, abdominal and back pain — were first treated as a UTI. Her initial doctor put her on three courses of antibiotics, even though she didn’t have the typical signs of a UTI.
“I also got an endovaginal ultrasound that showed free fluid in the abdomen & the possibility of a ruptured left ovarian cyst,” she wrote of the first visit. “The recommendation was to follow up in 3 months.”
By the time Chaudhri could finally see her doctor again amid the pandemic, her symptoms were significantly worse.
“My abdomen was bloated and I was in moderate pain,” she wrote. “My bowel movements had changed too so I kept taking stool softeners. I was incredibly tired but I chalked it up to the pandemic.”
A blood test confirmed the worst.
A follow-up endovaginal ultrasound showed that her ovaries had grown and moved to the center of her abdomen. Still, the radiologist didn’t think it was cancer and suggested it was endometriosis. Wanting a second opinion, Chaudhri consulted her gynecologist uncle. He advised her to get a blood test that checks for CA 125, CA 19 and CEA.
“These are cancer markers,” she explained. “He wanted to rule them out before pursuing endometriosis as an option.”
CA 125 (cancer antigen 125) and CA 19 (cancer antigen 19) are both proteins that can indicate if someone has cancer. A CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) test measures whether cancer cells are growing and spreading or reducing with treatment.
Unfortunately, Chaudhri’s CA 125 came back at 925, much higher than the normal level of 0-35. She immediately started seeing a better doctor who provided more expert testing.
Chaudhri finally got the diagnosis six months after she started feeling unwell.
She urged women to fight for better treatment.
Chaudhri’s treatment couldn’t stop the cancer, and the doctor sadly died a year and four months after her diagnosis. Her Twitter thread now remains as a powerful tool to warn against dismissing ovarian cancer symptoms.
“I hope you found this thread helpful,” she wrote. “Know your bodies. Pay attention to fatigue and changes in bowel/urinary tract movements. Make sure you understand all the words on a medical report. Do not dismiss your pain or malaise. Find the expert doctors.”
“Although this has been the most frightening time of my life it has been filled with brightness and love,” she said. “I have built legacies through the immense generosity of family, friends and a tribe of supporters who have bolstered me into the clouds.”
“I am not afraid,” she wrote at the end.
“Thank you for sharing your story.”
Chaudhri’s parting words immediately made an impact. Her thread was filled with women experiencing the same symptoms who were inspired to look for further treatment. Her colleague Dr. Krista Byers-Heinlein said it’s exactly what Chaudhri would’ve wanted in her own Twitter thread honoring the late doctor.
“Having just seen my GP for these exact symptoms last week…no infection…given antibiotics…was set for CT tomorrow…canceled (flooding), I will now reschedule ASAP. Thank you for telling your story. I’m going to share it with my doctor. You are a true blessing. Sending love,” wrote one follower.
“Ok I need a check,” wrote another.
“Thank you so much for sharing your narrative, especially these vague potential symptoms. Valuable,” another user wrote.
Chaudhri listing her seemingly innocent symptoms — including fatigue, abdominal pains, and more frequent peeing — so openly might just save a life after all.